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Does More Money Equal More Success?

By: Abby Decker

Edited By: Kylie Augis

Just thinking about it, some might assume that if a team has a more significant payroll, it will make their team have a successful season. With this bigger payroll, they are able to afford the most talented and expensive players, and can then use their large budget in different ways. Looking at past seasons, and even the current season, money may not be the only factor that leads to a team's success.

Let’s take a look at the 2021 baseball season. Out of the ten teams who spent the most money, seven made it into the playoffs. The five teams who spent the most money on player salaries averaged a 57% winning percentage. In contrast, the five teams who spent the least on player salaries averaged a 44% winning percentage, leaving a 13% deficit from those who spent the most money on player salaries. An interesting fact from this season is that two of the playoff teams were the Tampa Bay Rays and the Milwaukee Brewers, who spent significantly less money than the other teams in the playoffs. The Rays spent just under $71 million, while the Brewers spent under $100 million.

Historically, the teams who spend the most do have the most success. This can be seen by looking at past seasons and comparing who spends the most and who has the most wins. The New York Yankees are the biggest spenders from the past 20 years and have the most wins over that period, while the Pittsburgh Pirates have spent the least in that time period and are one of the lowest-ranked teams in terms of wins.

This season, there are three teams that show different perspectives on this topic. Let’s start with the New York Mets. Their payroll for 2023 is $353,546,854, which is the highest of the season. With the highest amount of money, they are third in the NL (National League) East, with a winning record of 27-26. It is still very early in the season, but their team isn’t looking as strong as some of their competitors. The Mets are an example of spending a lot of money, but not having the best outcome.

Onto the opposite perspective, the Tampa Bay Rays are in the top three of spending the least amount of money, with their payroll at $73,184,811. Spending a fraction of the Mets, the Rays are the leaders of the AL (American League) East, with a winning record of 38-16, and are four games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles, who are second in that division. The Rays definitely have a method to their madness, proving that money does not always equal success.

Courtesy of Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Finally, let’s talk about the Oakland Athletics. This team has the smallest payroll in the league, finalizing at $56,895,000. Unlike the Rays, the Athletics are lacking in success, so much so that their record is 10 wins and 44 losses, making them 24.5 games back from their division leaders. There is a lot of talk about this team crashing, and it has to do with more than their lack of money, but that could play a role.

On paper, the answer seems pretty obvious that money equals a team’s success. However, there are a few outliers that go against this assumption. This leads into another interesting topic of whether or not the MLB should enforce a salary cap.

Courtesy of Shae Hammond / Bay Area News Group

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